Mark Brennan is a PhD student studying supply chains in relation to food security and assistance, and a researcher on MIT’s Comprehensive Initiative on Technology Evaluation, which is funded by USAID’s Global Development Lab.
Food assistance supply chains face quality and quantity losses, though – as Chris Barrett and Dan Maxwell note (Barrett and Maxwell 2005) – the data concerning these losses are sparse. Food aid bought in the United States as a “transoceanic procurement” or in a developing country as a “local and regional procurement” (LRP) is shown to be of similar quality (Harou et al. 2013). The US Agency for International Development (USAID) conservatively estimates that it loses one percent of transoceanic food aid that is sent (USAID 2013). One percent of the annual total value of USAID food assistance can be about $10 million. United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) data suggests that 10% of Ugandan Purchase for Progress (P4P) farmers, participants of an LRP program, default on agreements to supply food to WFP due to quality issues (WFP 2011, pgs. xiv and 33). This is unsurprising, as post-harvest weight loss of maize due to insect feeding is estimated to be about 20% over a storage period of roughly 7 months in Africa (Affognon et al. 2015).
With an activity like food assistance, it can be difficult to strategically design and learn from procurement: on the day-to-day, beneficiaries must be supported, vendors paid, and donors and oversight boards satisfied. Millions of metric tons a year flow from donors to beneficiaries, and, while there is ample room for innovation through experimentation, the vast majority of aid shipments conventionally move from farm to village. Continue reading